This gingerbread cake recipe is the Christmas cake you need to be making. The mix of spice is on point, the texture is divine and the mini Christmas trees on top are very festive.
Add a Little Spice
I’m going to be honest with you: gingerbread cake isn’t on the top of my list of all-time favorite cake flavors. It’s usually too spicy, too dry…too blah. But this one is different. A hint of orange zest is added and mixed with the sugar to add a citrus-y element that is undetectable but oh so delicious.
The spices are very balanced. I’m talking the perfect amount of each. They sing in harmony together creating a song that celebrates and stands up to blandness. But it also doesn’t make your nose itch. You know what I’m talking about.
Let’s talk about something important: molasses. You should be buying unsulphered molasses. This is very different from blackstrap molasses that is sold at a lot of health food stores or, say, Whole Foods. Molasses derives from sugarcane. And unsulphered points to the absence of sulfur dioxide which is a bleaching agent which helps lighten it in color. The most popular brand and the brand I used for this post is Grandma’s Molasses.
How to Make Gingerbread Cake
- Start by whisking together the dry ingredients. We have: all-purpose flour, baking soda, ground cinnamon, ground ginger, ground cloves, allspice, nutmeg and kosher salt. This may sound like a lot of spices and it is an array but they all work deliciously well together. Promise.
- Mix together the brown sugar, white sugar and orange zest together. This will aggravate the orange zest and really bring out its oils. We want this. We need this.
- Pour in the neutral oil and beat it until combined. Then add in the egg and molasses. Mix again. And then pour in the hot water. This mixture will be super water.
- So I like to then mix in the dry ingredients by hand. You really don’t need a stand-up mixer for this recipe. A big bowl and a spatula will suffice just fine.
- Pour the batter into the prepared 8×8-inch baking pan and bake for about 35 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.
How to Store Gingerbread Cake
- This gingerbread cake should be stored at room temperature and I usually like to cover it with a net or a cake glass cover. You can even use a colander and flip it upside down if you don’t have anything special for cakes.
- If you like, you can also wrap slices in plastic wrap and it’ll store for quite some time. A few days, I’d guess.
Tips and Tricks
This gingerbread cake is pretty easy to make. I will say be sure to measure your spices accurately. If you’re missing one, you’re flirting with blandness. I prefer freshly grated nutmeg to the pre-ground but if that’s all you have, it’ll be fine! And the brown butter cream cheese frosting is a true game-changer.
Looking for more recipes? Here are some favorites:
- Cozy Gingerbread House
- Mocha Morning Rolls
- Iced Oatmeal Cookies
- Overnight Cinnamon Rolls
- Gingerbread Crinkle Cookies
- Salted Caramel Linzer Cookies
- Basque Cheesecake
If you make this Gingerbread Cake, let me know on Instagram!
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/3 cup white granulated sugar
- Zest from 1 orange
- 1/3 cup neutral oil (I used avocado oil)
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup unsulphered molasses (such as Grandma's Molasses brand)
- 3/4 cup hot water
Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting:
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 5 ounces cream cheese (at room temperature)
- 1 1/2 cups + 6 tablespoons powdered sugar (sifted and divided)
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Pinch kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons heavy cream
- Red and Green Coloring Gel (optional)
To Make the Gingerbread Cake:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 8×8-inch baking pan. I also like to line my baking pan with a parchment just to make sure nothing sticks.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, allspice, freshly grated and salt. Set the dry mixture aside.
- In the bowl of a stand-up mixer (or you could even use a large bowl with a spatula), with the paddle attachment, add the brown sugar, white sugar and orange zest. Mix this together to aggravate the orange zest. It should smell fragrant! Pour in the neutral oil; mix again. And then add in the egg and molasses. Give it a good mix until totally combined. Pour in and gently mix in the hot water. It'll be sloshy at first so just do it gently. If this means you do it by hand then do so!
- Pour in half of the dry ingredients and fold it into the wet mixture. Add the second half and then mix again. It will be a super thin cake batter–that’s ok! Pour it into the prepared baking pan and transfer to the oven to bake until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then invert onto a baking sheet to cool completely before adding the frosting.
To Make the Brown Butter Frosting:
- In a small saucepan, set over medium heat, add the butter. Once it’s melted, it will begin to foam up and bubble a bit. Allow it to cook until you begin to see lightly browned specks beginning to form. Give it a stir and cook until it’s browned. You should also start to smell its nutty aroma. Pour it in a freezer-safe bowl and stir to cool it down.
- Transfer it to the freezer to chill, for about 10-15 minutes. We want it to be around room temperature butter. After it gets to that room temperature butter-firmness (it can be a bit softer—that’s ok), transfer it to the bowl of a stand-up mixer (or bowl using an electric mixer). Add the cream cheese and beat until smooth. You want to beat the butter and cream cheese together FIRST to ensure ultimate smoothness.
- Sift in the 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar and add the vanilla extract, salt and heavy cream. Beat the frosting for about 3 minutes. The fluffiness from the heavy cream really lightens up this frosting so be sure to beat it for the full 2 minutes. If the frosting is too loose, feel free to transfer it to the fridge to chill for about 10 minutes. Then beat it one last time.
To Make the Mini Christmas Tree Decoration (Very Optional):
- Scoop out two tablespoons of frosting and add it to a small bowl. Repeat this with another two tablespoons of frosting. You'll have two bowls of frosting.
- Add 3 tablespoons of powdered sugar to each bowl (for a total of 6 tablespoons). And mix in it in. This will thicken up the frosting a bit so it's easier to pipe. Add two drops of red food coloring gel to the first bowl. Mix. And then add two drops of green food coloring gel to the second bowl. Mix until thoroughly combined.
- Divide the frostings amongst two piping bags fitted with #2 piping tip (a small round tip).
To Assemble the Cake:
- Pour all of the frosting on the cooled sheet cake and spread it around, creating cute swoops as you go.
- Using the green color, add a squiggly line, starting skinny on top (as the top of the tree) and going wider (to resemble the bottom of a tree). Add a dot at the bottom to replicate the "stump". And then top it with a red dot. You can obviously get as fancy and elaborate as you like with this.
- Cake will stay moist for about 2 to 3 days when wrapped properly.
- This gingerbread cake is pretty easy to make. I will say be sure to measure your spices accurately. If you’re missing one, you’re flirting with blandness. I prefer freshly grated nutmeg to the pre-ground but if that’s all you have, it’ll be fine!
- This gingerbread cake should be stored at room temperature and I usually like to cover it with a net or a cake glass cover. You can even use a colander and flip it upside down if you don’t have anything special for cakes. If you like, you can also wrap slices in plastic wrap and it’ll store for quite some time. A few days, I’d guess.